Thursday, February 9, 2012

In Memorium: Ruth Grace Waldman Weiner, 1934-2012

On Sunday, February 5, 2012, my mother passed away. She was alone, meaning she did not have any of her family surrounding her. I always thought I would be by her side as I was when our dad passed away. At that time only my brother was away at college. But even he got to say goodbye over the telephone. Eric and I had seen her just that Thursday to bring her clean clothes. She was on her way for a shower and anxious to go. So we hugged and the CNA wheeled her to get cleaned up. She really enjoyed her showers and loved to feel the warm water run over her. She always said it beat the hell out of the brief bird bath she got every day. I talked to her Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. That was my last time, Sunday at my dinner break.

My husband Larry and I had just gotten home from watching the Super Bowl with our friends. We had settled in for the night and my son Eric arrived home from his father's. We were catching up on our weekend activities and rehashing the football game when the nursing home called to tell me mom had another episode of respiratory arrest, the ambulance arrived and started an airway and gotten her breathing again. Somewhere in the less than ten-minute ride to Jeanes Hospital, she stopped breathing again. Even though the ER staff worked on her for a half hour, she never revived. I had asked my brother Glenn to call the hospital and find out what had happened as he had the Power of Attorney. When he told me "she never revived" I was uncomprehending. I actually asked him if he was kidding. Of course he was not, our 77 year old mother was gone.

We rode over as soon as he could get dressed and went in with extreme trepidation. I was not sure what we would find. When dad died, he was in his hospital bed and seemed like he simply went to sleep with one last gasp of breath. Mom had already passed. Her eyes were closed and mouth was open a bit since she had an airway in. Her hair was messed up like she also had been in bed. Her color was very pale, her lip color non-existent. I took a breath for her. I was waiting for to hear the all too familiar snoring. I looked for her chest to rise and fall. I could not believe it was real, that she was gone. Forever. And we were not there when it happened. 

I touched her arm and help the hand that was left exposed. Had the ER staff left it there knowing we would want to hold her one last time? My heart hoped so. Her skin was still warm to the touch so how could she possibly be gone? This was impossible. I sat in the chair by the bed and laid my head on her side and the tears fell. I still was in disbelief. Then I bowed out and let Glenn have a private moment with her. We left. The next day the funeral home would pick her up and prepare her for burial.

One thing I am grateful for is that the funeral home gave us an opportunity to say goodbye one last time in the chapel. She was resting. Her hair and makeup made her look so beautiful. She was dressed in a plain white cover with a lovely lace collar. Eric got to say goodbye to his beloved Mom-Mom. Larry got to say goodbye and he kissed the top of her head the same way he always had. I got to see her looking pretty and "normal", it wiped out the last image from the ER and I was able to see her as she looked even before her health was failing.  When I told Glenn how she looked I could see how more ease he was. She looked much more like she did at Eric's Bar Mitzvah in 2006.

(The following is what I wrote and my sister-in-law read for me at the burial service)

When we spoke Monday night with Rabbi Carr, it was hard to focus on just what I felt was most important to tell him about our mom. Then I realized this morning that all of our memories were valid, significant and valuable. We each had our own memories. We all had ones that were centered on a particular event. Some quite personal, some general observations. Many shared by all of us.

Music was always part of our lives. Fortunately she carried a tune slightly better than daddy and from when I was little until as recent as last week, a tune would spring out, especially on a car trip and we had a family sing a long. I grew up knowing all the WW2 songs and the score from most musicals! We still have the song list from her teenage years spent in Wildwood and I remember most of them.

She surprised us all many times. We knew her favorite singer was Ed Ames and movie star was Sean Connery with Charlton Heston a close second. But then I found out she harbored a passion for the Beach Boys to the point where we had all their CD’s and also Johnny Cash. And Steven Seagal movies were some of her favorites. We rented each one as it came out at Blockbuster. 

Her capacity for love and helping others was endless, whether family, friends or one of our friends. She was tough as nails when she had to be, especially in business. Her nicknames bestowed upon her from subcontractors ranged from Coach to General. But kind and gentle too when the situation called for it. She did harbor a strange quirk. Mom had this nervous reaction when one of us was in the doctor’s office getting stitches or a minor procedure. Mom would laugh through the entire time. Not just a giggle, full blown laughing.

I am going to miss her very much. I am overwhelmed at the emails and comments from friends on Facebook and the memories they have of my mom. She was my best friend, teacher, comrade in arms, and confidante. No matter what path we decided to take, she was behind us totally. That is not to say she didn’t put in her two cents but when it came down to it, she would defend our decisions to any and all who doubted.

When I look back at her life, it was full. She had a soul mate and true love in Daddy, two children who have found their own loves in life and 3 beautiful grandchildren who love her too. A huge void is in all our lives as she touched everyone in her own way. 

Love you Mommy. To paraphrase her favorite song to sing to Eric when he was a baby: You are my sunshine, my only sunshine and your memory will make me happy when skies are grayest. I hope you knew how much I loved you. My sunshine has been taken away but the warmth of it lingers forever. And may I borrow your favorite phrase whenever someone was leaving, Watch the way you go.


Since the funeral and the two days of Shiva, I have had many emails and posts on Facebook. When my dad died in 1989, these things did not exist. I am grateful to hear how she affected others' lives and quite taken with the memories. 

It has been almost exactly 33 years since my dad passed away. I looked online to see if the number 33 has a special meaning. Apparently it does, something profoundly spiritual. I am moved once again! This is from
In numerology, 33 is often thought to be a deep and spiritual number. The number has had many religious connotations throughout the years and is associated with the beginning of monotheism 3,300 years ago. The number also bears religious weight in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam. The number 33 also carries weight with the Freemason group.
In numerology, the number is not easily obtained. As any student of numerology knows, double digit numbers are normally not recognized in numerology as the first and second numbers are just added together to get a single digit number. However, certain numbers are special in numerology (33 being one of them), and their double digit form is recognized as a life path number for people special enough to be have these numbers in their life.

I will say Kaddish, the memorial prayer, at services. I will remember her with love. I will make sure her grandchildren know who she was. I will miss her terribly.

A very close family friend told me something at Shiva Wednesday night:
"You get over the death of your father. But when your mother passes away, it is so much different. This is the person who gave you life, your first breath, healed you, dressed you, shaped your life. It may be years before you really understand it but never will you forget how this feels and your heart never heals."
It helped last night and I hope to remember to pass these wise words to someone else who needs help healing. And also to remember, Zichron L'vracha: May her memory be a blessing.

My favorite memories are of our visits to mom's lifelong friend since they were in First Grade. We would travel to Pittsburgh and they came East to visit with us and their family. In 1975, we had a picture taken of all eight of us and this is the way I will remember my parents:


If anyone is so moved to honor our mom, please make a donation in her name to FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, 1607 Tampa Palms Blvd. W, PMB #373, Tampa, FL 33647. You may be asking why FORCE?. In the mid 1990's we tested for the BRCA genetic mutation. I had genetic counseling when I found out I carried the BRCA2 mutation which increased my risk of breast cancer by 85-95%. I had my ovaries out in 2002 to reduce the  risk of ovarian cancer and the risk of breast cancer to 50%. Nobody really questioned my choice after all I was 42 and who had babies at that age? Then I opted to get a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction to reduce my risk to less than 3%. My mother encouraged my choice so that I never had to go through what my dad endured and would live to see my grandchildren. When someone mentioned that I was mutilating my body, my mother stood her full height of 5'3" and gave them a piece of her mind, including some choice expletives. She appeared to me to be seven foot tall! I loved her more than ever for that.

One of my college classmates had forgotten mom's parting phrase she always used and was reminded of it when I posted my speech. A high school classmate said his mother always said, "You are loved". He was so taken by my mom, he combined both.

I leave you with "Watch the way you go-you are loved."


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